A 1959 T-Bird and a Life-long Work Ethic
|April 25, 2011||Posted by Marcia Mantell under Boomers in Action|
Today, at age 64, Peter is a car salesman. He’s not your typical car salesman. Rather, he talks directly to you, asks what kind of vehicle you are looking for, asks about your budget; and then, actually listens to what you’ve said and helps you find the best car option for your situation. No judging, just respect. A rare find indeed.
Part of Peter’s success surely lies with his ability to discuss cars at every level with each buyer. He just loves cars and it comes through in how he describes the details. He gives you the pros and cons of the different makes and models. He’ll talk about how the latest technology is energy efficient and how the engine works, if that’s your interest. Or, he’ll talk about the latest colors and new interior features for making traveling with children more enjoyable. He must have been honing his skills for his entire career. Well, yes and no.
It turns out that Peter has only been selling cars for the past 7 years – he started when he was 58 years old. For the 30 prior years, he owned and operated a travel agency. At the peak of his business, he had 16 employees and thousands of clients. He and his wife of 38 years raised their two children and lived a very comfortable middle-class lifestyle in the Boston suburbs. And, then, the entire travel agency business model virtually disappeared with the rapid rise of the internet and the power of the travel planning sites. After 30 years building a business and a career, he was forced to close the door and end the life he had known.
“What can I do now?” Peter asked his wife. She made it very clear that he would not be hanging out at home! “Find something to do that you love. Find something that you are passionate about and get going.” How many times have you heard that? Follow your passion. It turns out that Peter’s passion was sitting right in his driveway. He loved cars. He’s loved cars since he was a boy. His dad was a shoe repairman, very hard working, salt-of-the-earth man. Peter wanted to play sports; Dad insisted that Peter help out in the shoe shop. Peter again asked to play sports; Dad handed him more shoes to shine.
At age 16, Peter had saved quite a sizeable amount of money from working on those shoes. His very first purchase was a new 1959 T-Bird. The coolest car in America at that time, and later an all-American classic car. He’s purchased many different hot cars over the years, always ahead of the trends. He now drives a well-outfitted BMW. Cars were Peter’s symbol of prosperity after growing up modestly, and were the reward for hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard work in his dad’s shop.
When faced with a real financial dilemma like so many Baby Boomers have in their late-50’s, Peter turned his love of cars into a paycheck that has allowed him to keep from tapping any of his other assets for living expenses. His third career will allow him to wait until full retirement age before filing for Social Security, which will increase his monthly benefit. His ongoing paycheck keeps his wife’s 401(k) invested and growing. And, being out of the house keeps him happily married!
Peter works really hard in this new career. Selling cars throughout the “Great Recession” could not have been easy. But, with an incredible work ethic instilled from his early years, Peter understands that life is sometimes difficult, but you stay positive and keep moving forward. His idea of “retirement” is to cut back from his 60 hour work weeks to 35 – 40 hour work weeks. He and his wife would like to sell their larger home and downsize, reserving some of the equity for retirement expenses. He thought they were ready to sell the house and find something smaller, but maybe his wife is not quite ready. When asked which furniture could go to their newly married daughter, Peter’s wife looked surprised. “Why would I give any of the furniture away? It’s all coming to the new house.” Well, maybe “downsizing” will have to wait awhile!